Seven Dreamers, the Japanese company behind the AI-powered laundry-folding robot Laundroid, has filed for bankruptcy. The company is now in the process of selling and transferring its business, it announced on its website today, which was spotted by Bloomberg editor Gearoid Reidy.
Backed by companies like Panasonic and Daiwa House, Laundroid had ambitious dreams to be the ultimate wardrobe organizer for the entire household. It had multiple cameras and robotic arms to scan a load of laundry, and used Wi-Fi to connect to a server that would analyze the clothing using AI to figure out the best way to fold it. A companion app was supposed to be able to track every piece of clothing that went through Laundroid, and categorize the clothes by household member. One load of laundry would take a couple hours to be folded, as each T-shirt took about five to ten minutes.
That’s how it was supposed to work in theory, anyway — when I tested it out at CES 2018 with my own T-shirt, the machine ate it up and Laundroid engineers had to work for about 15 minutes to pry it out. The explanation was that its cameras couldn’t recognize my black shirt, only the brightly colored demo shirts they’d prepared on hand.
I suspected something might be wrong when the company was conspicuously absent at this year’s CES. Meanwhile, rival laundry-folding robot company Foldimate was back for a second year, enjoying large crowds gathered around its prominent booth and giving nonstop demonstrations with a fully working prototype.
When I spoke to Seven Dreamers CEO Shin Sakane at CES 2018, he told me that he hoped to eventually bring the $16,000 product down to under $2,000. But according to credit research agency Teikoku Databank, the company racked up over $20 million in debt to 200 creditors while trying to get its product to market. It never actually shipped.
It’s sad news for everyone involved, but maybe we don’t need an expensive Wi-Fi-connected machine to do our simple chores for us. After all, now we have Marie Kondo to teach us how to fold fitted sheets.